This Week in Petroleum History, July 15 – 21

July 16, 1926 – Fixico No. 1 Well brings Greater Seminole Area Boom

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The Oklahoma Oil Museum in Seminole educates visitors about the area’s historic oilfields, including Earlsboro, St. Louis, Bowlegs, Little River, and Allen.

Three years after an oil well was completed near Bowlegs, Oklahoma, a gusher south of Seminole revealed the true oil potential of Seminole County. The Fixico No. 1 well penetrated the prolific Wilcox Sands formation at 4,073 feet deep.

The well, drilled by the R.F. Garland and his Independent Oil Company, was among more than 50 Greater Seminole Area oil reservoirs discovered; six were giants that produced more than one million barrels of oil each.

With the addition of the giant Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered in 1928, by 1935 Oklahoma would become the largest supplier of oil in the world. Learn more in Great Seminole Oil Boom.

July 16, 1935 – First Parking Meter made

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Oklahoma college students helped Carl Magee design the Park-O-Meter No. 1. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

As the booming Oklahoma City oilfield added to the congestion of cars downtown, the world’s first parking meter was installed at the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue. Carl C. Magee, publisher of the Oklahoma News, designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1.

“The meter charged five cents for one hour of parking, and naturally citizens hated it, viewing it as a tax for owning a car,” notes historian Josh Miller. “But retailers loved the meter, as it encouraged a quick turnover of customers.”

Magee designed the Park-O-Meter No. 1, today preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society. It was manufactured by MacNick Company of Tulsa, a maker of timing devices used to explode nitroglycerin in oil wells (also see Zebco Reel Oilfield History). By 1940, there were 140,000 parking meters operating in the United States.

July 16, 1969 – Kerosene fuels launch of Saturn V Moon Rocket

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Powered by five first-stage engines fueled by “rocket grade” kerosene, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever built. Photos courtesy Nasa.

A 19th century petroleum product made America’s 1969 moon landing possible. Kerosene powered the first-stage rocket engines of the Saturn V when it launched the Apollo 11 mission on July 16. Four days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong announced, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

During launch, five engines of the massive Saturn V’s first stage burned “Rocket Grade Kerosene Propellant” at 2,230 gallons per second – generating almost eight million pounds of thrust. The fuel was a highly refined kerosene RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) that could trace its roots to the 1840s and “coal oil” for lamps. Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner began refining the fuel from coal in 1846. He coined the term kerosene from the Greek word keros (wax). RP-1 today fuels first-stage boosters for the Atlas, SpaceX, and other rockets. Learn more in Kerosene Rocket Fuel.

July 19, 1957 – Oil discovered in Alaska Territory

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Even the Anchorage Daily Times could not predict oil production would account for more than 90 percent of Alaska’s revenue.

Although some oil production had occurred earlier in the territory, Alaska’s first commercial oilfield was discovered by Richfield Oil, which completed the Swanson River Unit No. 1 in Cook Inlet Basin. The well yielded 900 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 11,215 feet.

Alaska’s first governor, William Egan, would proclaim the 1957 discovery provided “the economic justification for statehood for Alaska” two years later. Richfield leased more than 71,000 acres of the Kenai National Moose Range, now part of the 1.92 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

More Alaska discoveries followed.  By June 1962 about 50 wells were producing more than 20,000 barrels of oil a day. Atlantic Richfield evolved into today’s ARCO. Learn about the earliest exploration wells in the 49th state in First Alaska Oil Well.

July 20, 1920 – Texas Company Well discovers Permian Basin Oilfield

The Permian Basin made headlines in 1920 when a West Texas well found oil about 2,750 feet deep. The W.H. Abrams No. 1 well was named for Texas & Pacific Railway official William Abrams, who owned the land and had leased mineral rights to the Texas Company (later Texaco). After “shooting” the well with nitroglycerine, a column of oil announced discovery of the West Columbia field. It was part of the Permian Basin, covering more than 75,000 square miles in 43 counties of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

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The Permian Basin produced about 20 percent of America’s oil by the 2010s. Image courtesy Rigzone.

“As a crowd of 2,000 people looked on, a great eruption of oil, gas, water and smoke shot from the mouth of the well almost to the top of the derrick,” notes a Texas State Historical Marker in Westbrook.

“Locally, land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values…the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions.”

Another West Texas discovery well in 1923 near Big Lake brought an even greater drilling boom that helped establish the University of Texas (see Santa Rita taps Permian Basin). The Permian region is expected to account for more than half of the growth in U.S. oil production through 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. Also see New Mexico Oil Discovery.

July 21, 1935 – “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy strikes Oil near Houston

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Glenn McCarthy appeared on TIME magazine in 1950.

Glenn H. McCarthy struck oil 50 miles east of Houston in 1935, extending the already prolific Anahuac field. The well was the first of many for the Texas independent producer who would build Houston’s famed Shamrock Hotel a decade later. By 1945, McCarthy had discovered 11 Texas oilfields. He became known as another “King of the Wildcatters” and “Diamond Glenn” by 1950, when his estimated worth reached $200 million ($2 billion today).

In addition to his McCarthy Oil and Gas Company, McCarthy eventually would own a gas company, a chemical company, a radio station, 14 newspapers, a magazine, two banks, and the Shell Building in Houston. In 1946 McCarthy invested $21 million to build the Shamrock Hotel on the edge of Houston. He spent  $1 million on the hotel’s 1949 opening-day gala, which newspapers later dubbed, “Houston’s biggest party” (the hotel’s “Emerald Room” attracted Hollywood celebrities, including Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra). Learn more in “Diamond Glenn” McCarthy.

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Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

The post This Week in Petroleum History, July 15 – 21 appeared first on American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

Source: American Oil & Gas Historical Society

This Week in Petroleum History, July 8 – July 14

July 8, 1937 – Secretary of War approves Experimental Gulf of Mexico Oil Pier

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, Harry Woodring, approved an ambitious engineering plan to build a one-mile pier into the Gulf of Mexico to explore for oil. War Secretary Woodring  signed off on an application to drill an exploratory well near McFaddin Beach, Texas, by the Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Texaco, thanks to a discovery at Sour Lake). The 60 acre lease was eight miles east of High Island in Galveston County. Humble Oil built the experimental pier with three drilling rigs, but found no oil. A hurricane destroyed the pier in 1938. Learn more at the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum.

July 9, 1815 – Early West Virginia Natural Gas Discovery 

Natural gas was discovered accidentally by Capt. James Wilson during the digging of a salt brine well within the present city limits of Charleston, West Virginia (Virginia in 1815). Even earlier, a young surveyor, George Washington, had written about “burning springs” – petroleum seeps – to the north, along the Kanawha River. Awarded a land grant for his service in the French and Indian War, Washington acquired 250 acres along the river. He later explained he chose the location, “on account of a bituminous spring which it contains, of so inflammable a nature that it burns as freely as spirits.” In a history of West Virginia’s oil industry, Where it all Began, author David McKain concluded, “This was in 1771, making the father of our country the first petroleum industry speculator.”

July 9, 1883 – Finding Oil in the Land of Oz: L. Frank Baum’s Oil Business

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L. Frank Baum’s Castorine oil sales trips may have led to his idea of a Tin Woodman character.

The future author of the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz started a business selling petroleum products in Syracuse, New York. The store offered lubricants, oils, greases – and “Baum’s Castorine, the great axle oil.”

L. Frank Baum – whose father had found success in early Pennsylvania oilfields – served as chief salesman for Baum’s Castorine Company, which is still in operation.

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L. Frank Baum founded his oil company in New York.

Reporting on the opening, the Syracuse Daily Courier newspaper said Baum’s Castorine was a rust-resistant axle grease concoction for machinery, buggies, and wagons. The axle grease was advertised to be “so smooth it makes the horses laugh.”

Baum’s connection to the petroleum industry began decades earlier when his father closed the family barrel-making business to risk his fortunes in the oilfields. Although Baum sold the Castorine business in 1900, an Oz historian has researched company records in Rome, New York, and proclaimed that the Tin Man character began with Baum’s oil. Learn more in Oil in the Land of Oz.

July 11, 2008 – World Oil Price hits Historic High

The price of oil reached a record high of $147.27 a barrel before dropping back to $145.08. Prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had peaked at $145.29 a barrel eight days earlier. As supply fears subsided, oil prices fell below $37 a barrel by January 2009. A survey of academic studies in 2016 found that major oil price fluctuations dating back to 1973 (the OPEC embargo) were largely a result of shifts in the demand for oil. In 2018, annual U.S. crude oil production reached a record level of 10.96 million barrels of oil per day, 17 percent higher than 2017 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

July 11, 2013 – Drop of Pitch drips After 69 Years

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Pitch (bitumen) is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon that flows very, very slowly.

Physicists at Trinity College Dublin photographed a falling drip of pitch – “one of the most anticipated drips in science,” according to the journal Nature. It was considered one of the longest-running laboratory investigations in the world.

Set up in 1944, the pitch-drop experiment demonstrated the high viscosity (low fluidity) of pitch — a natural hydrocarbon also known as bitumen or asphalt that appears to be solid at room temperature, but is flowing extremely slowly.

“The Trinity College team has estimated the viscosity of the pitch by monitoring the evolution of this one drop, and puts it in the region of two million times more viscous than honey, or 20 billion times the viscosity of water, ” noted the Nature article. Also see Asphalt paves the Way.

July 12, 1934 – The Start of “Clark Super 100”

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Founded in 1934, Clark operated about 1,500 gas stations by 1970.

Two years after paying $14 cash for a closed, one-pump gas station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Emory Clark incorporated what would become the Clark Oil & Refining Corporation.

Clark set out to create a network of simplified filling stations that focused on selling premium gasoline only – delivering “Super 100 Premium Gasoline.” His marketing strategy was to omit common services like maintenance, engine repair, and tire changing. Sales reach $21.1 million in 1949, notes the Harvard Business School Baker Library.

By 1953 the company operated more than 150 service stations in the Midwest under the brand name “Clark Super 100.” In 1967 Clark purchased the large refinery at Wood River, Illinois, and three years later sold gas from 1,500 gas stations. In 1981, the Clark family sold their company holdings – which began with  Emory T. Clark’s $14 purchase – to Missouri-based Apex Oil for $483 million.

Founded in 1997, the Wood River Refinery History Museum in Roxana, Illinois, includes exhibits that trace the refinery’s history since 1917.

July 14, 1863 – Diamond “Tool for Boring Rock”

French tunnel engineer Rodolphe Leschot in 1863 patented a “Tool for Boring Rock” – a ring of industrial-grade diamonds on the end of a tubular drill rod and designed to cut a cylindrical core. Water pumped through the drill rod washed away cuttings and cooled the bit.

Leschot’s system proved successful in drilling blast holes for tunneling Mount Cenis on the France-Italy border. By 1865, the use of diamond bits in oil well drilling was being examined in the petroleum regions of western Pennsylvania.

“It is not known if there is any connection between the 1865 experimental diamond core drilling in the Pennsylvania oil region and the Leschot blast hole drilling in France in 1863,” noted oil historian Samuel Pees in 2004. Learn more about Making Hole – Drilling Technology and visit Pennsylvania’s historic oil region and the Drake Well Museum in Titusville.

July 14, 1891 – Rockefeller expands Oil Tank Car Empire

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By 1904, Standard Oil’s tank car fleet had grown to 10,000.

John D. Rockefeller incorporated Union Tank Line Company in New Jersey in 1891. He transferred his fleet of several thousand oil tank cars to the Standard Oil Trust.

Rockefeller systematically acquired control of all but 200 of America’s 3,200 existing oil tank cars. By 1904, his rolling fleet of tank cars had grown to 10,000.

Union Tank Line Company shipped only Standard Oil products until 1911, when a U.S. Supreme Court decision mandated dissolution of his trust. The newly independent company changed its name to Union Tank Car Company – although its official rolling stock reporting mark retained Standard’s UTL or UTLX.

In 1963, the company introduced a 50,000-gallon car, the largest tank car to be employed in ongoing rail service. Learn more about the early days of transporting petroleum in Densmore Oil Tank Car.

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Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

The post This Week in Petroleum History, July 8 – July 14 appeared first on American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

Source: American Oil & Gas Historical Society